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Diplomacy in Action

U.S. National Security Strategy Update

FPC Briefing
Admiral Mike Mullen
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
December 8, 2009


Date: 12/08/2009 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives an U.S. national security strategy update at the Washington Foreign Press Center on December 8, 2009. © State Dept ImageVideo
 
1:30 P.M. EST

MODERATOR:
Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Chairman Mullen, who is to deliver a U.S. National Security Strategy Update. Without further ado, here is the chairman.

ADM MULLEN: Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. It’s terrific to be back here at the Foreign Press Center. I have just a few opening remarks and then look forward to getting to your questions.

Clearly, the big news this week and last is the President’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. You may have heard me speak to it in the last few days, but I want to reiterate that I fully support his decision to send 30,000 more troops – U.S. troops there. It is my belief and that of our commanders that this extended surge gives General McChrystal and all the forces he needs in 2010 to reverse the momentum of what I have described as a growing and increasingly lethal insurgency.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the troops who will shortly deploy to Afghanistan. I thanked them for their service and I told them that their mission to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida, to degrade the Taliban’s influence, and to prevent Afghanistan or Pakistan from becoming safe havens is not merely about killing or capturing the enemy. It is also about protecting the Afghan people. It’s about earning their trust and learning their culture. At its core, it’s about providing breathing space for the Afghans to protect their own people and to stabilize their own country.

The President has made it very clear. While our commitment to the people of Afghanistan is enduring, our troop presence will not be. Our task, therefore, is to increase the quality and quantity of the Afghan national security forces to such a degree that they can provide for their own security, and to improve that security to such a degree that good governance can take root, or at least in certain selected ministries, and at local levels as well as national levels.

And so in July of 2011, we will begin the process of transition, of transferring more responsibility to Afghan national security forces and thinning our own lines. At that time, the Marines we sent last summer into Helmand province will have been at the job for two years. We will know by then if we have been successful.

But let me be very upfront about a point that, frankly, has been lost in all the headlines about troop numbers. Being successful in Afghanistan – winning – is not solely the responsibility of the U.S. military. This is not that kind of war, not that kind of struggle. Success will come only by and through a concerted effort by other agencies and other partners. As General McChrystal said just this morning, there are no silver bullets. Ultimate success will be the cumulative effect of sustained pressure across multiple lines of operation.

We need more civilian expertise on the ground, particularly in agriculture, and our State Department is stepping up to meet that challenge. We need more contributions from our NATO allies, and I’m delighted by the news out of Brussels that some 7,000 more troops will be forthcoming. We need to see effort on the – by the Karzai government to make good on promised reforms, and to extend the delivery of goods and services all the way down to the district and sub-district levels.

Most importantly, we need to recognize that this is a regional challenge. A key part of the President’s strategy is to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan and to improve the level of coordination across and within those border regions. I believe that to the degree we can do this, we can certainly help the Pakistanis themselves get at those safe havens. And I would just add here that the Pakistani military has been achieving a good level of success in those areas, most recently in South Waziristan.

It is clear to me that General Kiyani is doing exactly as he said he would, and I very much appreciate his leadership. He understands the danger all too well. I called him the other day to extend my condolences for the tragic loss of life in the Rawalpindi mosque bombing where dozens were killed, including military officers. That and the bombings today in Lahore and in Baghdad serve as grim reminders of the menace still before us, of the brutality still embraced by radical extremists. I offer my sympathies to all the victims and their families.

These were cowardly acts against Muslim civilians, women, and children – nothing more than acts of murder. It is a twisted ideology that justifies such behavior, but it underscores the scope of the threat we face. Al-Qaida still plots and plans, especially in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the epicenter of global Islamic extremism, the origin of the 9/11 attacks. And should we be hit again, I am convinced the planning, training, and financing as well as leadership will emanate from there.

That’s why we are so focused on it. That’s why we believe this mission is in our vital national security interest and those of our allies and friends. And that’s why we are grateful for the contributions of the other nations committed to the fight. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. Please wait for the microphone and if we could go down here.

QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. My name is Nadia Bilbassy. I’m with Middle East Broadcasting Center, MBC TV. With the surge, there is a fear there’s going to be an influx of Taliban fighters across the border in Pakistan. And how realistic that the Pakistani Government is going to take on the Afghan Taliban as opposed to the Pakistani Taliban?

And second, if I may, there’s been a public quarrel among the Generals McChrystal and Eikenberry. Do you fear that this is – might affect the implementation of this new strategy in the future?

ADM MULLEN: With respect to the first, I can go back to last spring and actual – General Kiyani and I and other seniors talked about then the influx of, in particular, the Marines in the south, that there would be an expectation that that influx would push a lot of insurgents into Pakistan. And what I found there was the leaders addressing this challenge upfront, planning for it. And in fact, there really hasn’t been a significant migration or a push, if you will, into Baluchistan in particular – part of Pakistan. So the same kind of planning is going on now. We’re – both militaries are very much aware of this and prepared to address it. So we didn’t see it as some expected we would before, and we keep that in mind as we look to a future where we add these forces.

With respect to Generals McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry, I think the published part of what has occurred is over. I mean, there is – there was, and I was very much in this, a very intense, heated debate about how to proceed forward here. And I actually think that’s been a very healthy part of the process. But it’s also very clear to me, and I haven’t heard their testimony this morning, but I assume that testimony will be that they are together. I certainly have spoken with General McChrystal about that. He is very much a part of that team. He knows that. We all are right now. And again, the President’s made a decision and we are all moving out to execute that decision.

MODERATOR: Okay. Please limit yourselves to one-part questions so we can get as many in as possible. We’ll go to Ariana TV right there.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Nazira Azim Karimi. I’m correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan. Regarding sending more troops in Afghanistan, different category people has a different opinion. Some people, they are positive; some people negative. And Iran claims that sending additional troop in Afghanistan will not solve the currently – problem in Afghanistan. I need your opinion.

ADM MULLEN: I am convinced, having worked my way through the strategic review, that this is an absolute requirement to reverse the insurgency, to turn the momentum around that has been increasing each year over the last three years with respect to the Taliban. So I’m a strong believer that this is the right decision and the right path. That others would certainly differ wouldn’t surprise me, and in fact, that Iran would differ on the face of it doesn’t surprise me much at all. Iran is a border state. They obviously have interests there. And I’m sure they are observing very closely what’s going on, and obviously, the decision that the President made.

I think it’s important to understand when you look at not just the decision of the President of the United States, but you look at the support from the other nations – there are 43 nations with troops – troop-contributing nations in Afghanistan, it is an international effort. It is internationally supported and seen as a very positive step. So I put that in the – I put it in that light that so many nations who are there support this, and that one or two in an isolated fashion wouldn’t doesn’t surprise me.

MODERATOR: Okay. I’m going to go right here.

QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. This is Ali Imram from Associated Press of Pakistan. My question is about Pakistan’s security concerns in the region. It wants peace and stability on its eastern border with India, and it has also concerns about some of the Pakistani militants receiving military weapons from Afghanistan flowing into its tribal areas. So how are you addressing Pakistan’s concerns?

ADM MULLEN: Well, I – as you know, I’ve been to Pakistan many, many times now and will return again in the near future. And I have seen the Pakistani Government as well as the Pakistani military address these increasing concerns both – clearly express concerns, both east and west. And in the long run, I think the resolution of the border in the east in Kashmir is a very important outcome. Obviously, that is a principal concern to India and Pakistan. But it is of concern to many others in terms of the stability in the region, and I think that’s a key part of what needs to happen in the future.

Increasingly, we are all concerned about the level of militancy, the attacks as recently as today where so many innocent Pakistani civilians, women, children are being killed, and that the government and the military have reacted, I think, very positively in that regard to address that concern. It’s one of the reasons that we seek the long-term relationship with Pakistan and, quite frankly, Afghanistan to see that region calm down dramatically. And right now, it’s not headed in the right direction. And the fact that there are those arming Pakistan, Pakistani militants, is certainly something that is not helpful and must be turned around as well.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to break away and take a question from New York. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My name is Kahraman Haliscelik with Turkish Television. Admiral Mullen, thanks for receiving the question from here. I’ll be very precise. How satisfied are you with Turkey’s promise of military contribution to Afghanistan? The prime minister is still in D.C. and he had meetings with the President yesterday.

And my second question is about PKK issue. Can you tell us about what’s new on intelligence-sharing front with Turkey on PKK issue? Thanks.

ADM MULLEN: The relationship we have with Turkey, the United States has with Turkey, is one of great importance and one that I see, certainly from my perspective, from the military-to-military standpoint, is on extremely solid ground. And we work very comprehensively together across a number of issues.

I am – I mean, we are extremely satisfied with Turkey’s contribution to the ISAF mission. I’ve spoken with my counterpart, General Basbug, on a regular basis about many things, including that, and we’ve seen that to be a very productive one. And we look to the future for that very strong relationship to continue.

With respect to the PKK, the sharing that has occurred over the last two years has, in many ways, broken through in a supportive way from the United States’ perspective, to allow this threat to continue to be addressed. So I’m very confident that that will continue. And there’s no precise – there aren’t precise steps that get taken to say, we take this step and, therefore, we achieve this.

I think it’s the constancy of the relationship, and the fact that it continues to grow, including that intelligence sharing, which allows those capabilities to improve over time, which has clearly happened.

MODERATOR: Over here. Al Jazeera, I think. Well, wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: [Sebastian Walker, Al Jazeera English, Qatar] Sorry. The news of this week may be Afghanistan, but for many, today is remarkable news in Baghdad. More than 120 people have died. This is the third carefully coordinated attack since August which have brought a toll of nearly 2,000 people killed or wounded. How much of your focus remains on Iraq? And is there any level of violence that might make you reconsider being able to withdraw from the – combat troops from the country by August?

ADM MULLEN: The – clearly, the tragedy of these bombings and the number of innocents who were killed is something that is very much on all our minds. And you say, this is the third one, I think, since August. And we’ve obviously followed this very, very carefully. We work to assist the security apparatus in Iraq to address any shortfalls that might be there.

That said, the leadership, and certainly in the last two bombings – and I look to it to do the same, has, I think, addressed this move to ensure that the sectarian aspect of this does not break out. And I only use the last two to validate the fact that the sectarian outbreak, which is what I think these bombings really seek, has not occur, and I think – occurred. And I think that speaks volumes about the growing confidence that the Iraqi people have in their own government.

It is not anything – and I take your point that there’s been a lot of focus on Afghanistan, but I assure you all of us spend a considerable amount of time on Iraq. We want to make sure that this responsible drawdown, as it approaches, only occurs after the elections. I think the significance of the recent vote in the corps that sets a date, that approves the election was critical, and that that election will take place and that we will be on the glide path after that.

I think when you ask the question, does any level of violence – does it generate the possibility that we might change our mind, I mean, that’s a speculation, if you will, that I’d just as soon not go into. But I want to just reemphasize how much we care about this, how much focus we have on it. We still have 115,000 United States troops in Iraq as a very strong signal of continued commitment here, and we want to see this thing come out well.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to Canada in the middle, in the back.

QUESTION: Admiral, Richard Latendresse with TVA, Canadian TV. You said 7,000 soldiers from NATO members, 10,000 more expected. How confident are you that you will reach the 10,000? And what kind of an impact on the overall mission would it have if you wouldn’t reach the 10,000 number?

ADM MULLEN: I think my comment – I won’t look at it in my words exactly here, but it was upwards of 7,000 or so. The numbers that we used going into planning, and that Secretary of Defense Gates and I used in our testimony, were 5,000 to 7,000. So for what we have right now in terms of actual commitments, it’s very close to the 7,000. Whether there will be additional commitments down the road, we will see. I honestly don’t know that one way or another.

I do know that that’s a significant commitment and that this is very important in terms of executing the strategy. And while there have been some times in recent years where we were all very critical of NATO because they had not contributed troops, I think it’s important to point out that their ratio is about 1 to 2 – one NATO troop for additional U.S. troops, and that with this addition, they keep that ratio. And in fact, they have significantly increased the number of NATO troops over the last two years, and we need that, and they’ve really made a difference.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to India down front here.

QUESTION: [Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India, India] Following up on the question from APP and your remarks on Kashmir, Indian Government recently announced reduction of troops from Jammu and Kashmir. How do you see this in the overall context of your presence there in the region in your fight against terrorism? And do you believe this will lead to further reduction of troops from both the countries and then Pakistan?

ADM MULLEN: I think that the adjustments that the Indians have proposed, and to the degree that they’ve been executed – and I’m just not – I’m not current on the level of execution right now, but certainly, executing those changes is a very positive step. And I think the leadership – the political leadership, the diplomatic leadership, the military leadership – in both countries, and in the region, needs to continue to encourage and also to respond to that. Because I really do believe that detensioning that border is absolutely critical to the long-term stability in that region, and it’s going to take outreach on the part of both countries. So I’m very positively moved by the steps that Prime Minister Singh’s government has taken with respect to this.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Germany, right there.

QUESTION: Markus Ziener, Germany newspaper Handelsblatt. To what extent are you planning to adopt measures and techniques you used in Iraq also in Afghanistan? I remember that during the surge, you identified groups and people in Iraq you could partner with. And I wonder how you are going to do that in – to find Taliban you could broker with. Thank you.

ADM MULLEN: I think there are many similarities and there are many differences. Clearly, we need to address this at the local level. And with respect to the kind of reconciliation and reintegration that you described, we expect – and there’s already one of our leaders who’s a retired U.S. British three-star who did this in Iraq – leaves the effort for General McChrystal and ISAF to do the same thing in Afghanistan. So we think it’s a very important part. And over the next year to year and a half, how that goes will be a measure of how the overall approach is going as well.

So it’s a very important part of our future strategy, and we’re putting a lot of effort into making that happen. And we’ve seen fighters who don’t want to fight anymore, and they’re looking for a way to do that so that they don’t get killed, their families don’t get killed, and that happens inside this umbrella of security, which in some places exists, for instance, in Helmand where we’ve put our new troops, and in others it just doesn’t. And that’s why these additional troops are so important.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Russia down here.

QUESTION: [Andrei Sitov, ITAR-TASS, Russia] Thank you, Admiral, for doing this. Thanks to our FPC friends for doing a great job, as always. I want to ask about a new START treaty with the Russians. As a military – a person who is a military expert, what are the sticking points to reaching an agreement? Is it true that the U.S. insists on keeping this intrusive verification regime that exists in the current regime? And if so, then why? Has Russia given any reason to be suspicious? In terms of staying on this subject, I may ask what you would expect from Russia on your new current strategy, aside from the well-known corridor?

ADM MULLEN: The START strategy or the Afghanistan strategy?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ADM MULLEN: Well, with respect to the first, I can’t really go into details in terms of the negotiations. There are major issues obviously associated with this. Our two presidents have spoken to the importance of solving these differences and getting to a point where we have a treaty. That’s what I’m involved in, my Russian counterpart General Makarov is involved in that, National Security Advisor Jones, our negotiating teams, our presidents, our foreign ministers.

The national security team in the United States – and I would also add in Russia – are very focused on bringing this out to a positive conclusion. That there are differences shouldn’t surprise you, first of all. And actually, some of that is just driven by the asymmetries in our own nuclear structure, if you will, whether it’s where the – whether it’s the kind of launchers or how many we have or those kinds of things. So all those things are being discussed. And I know the presidents – both presidents are very much geared to solving this and having a treaty.

We do need – in the United States from our perspective, we do need a treaty that is ratifiable, that can be ratified by our Senate. So we’re working very hard from that point of view as well. So I look forward to the continued dialogue and negotiations, and I know that everybody is working these very difficult issues as hard as they can.

Just briefly, as I’ve told General Makarov more than once privately and stated publicly, I think the support that Russia has given us with, in particular, our northern distribution network is absolutely critical. My interaction with General Makarov and others from Russia, they indicate a very, very strong positive desire to see this – see Afghanistan come out well. I spoke – in fact, I called General Makarov the other day before the strategy was rolled out to review the details of it with him. He very much appreciated that. And he was very supportive and very strongly stated that he would like to see this strategy succeed.

MODERATOR: The United Kingdom right here.

QUESTION: Alex Spillius, Daily Telegraph. I think you mentioned in your – one of your town halls yesterday new rules of engagement with the aim of bringing down civilian casualties. Can you tell us a bit more about that? How careful can you be when you’re in a firefight, and what other methods are you going to employ, maybe apart from relying less on air power? And how important is this as part of the overall strategy?

ADM MULLEN: Well, as I talked to this yesterday, and because I was addressing almost 2,000 Marines and soldiers, many of whom will be going there in the near future, certainly over the next many months, I wanted to, in particular, single out this point because it is such a critical part of what they will have to do. And I framed it in the context of a tactical win, where you might have been very aggressive but ended up killing innocent Afghan civilians; that is a strategic loss. And as you pile up these tactical wins, you also pile up these strategic losses which eventually will cause a strategy to fail.

And to the heart of your question, it is a very delicate balance. And leaders – combat leaders, unit leaders, sergeants, staff sergeants – have to be aware of this. And it’s as much an issue of planning before you get into a fight as it is what you do while you’re in a fight.

So what I was trying to do yesterday was focus leaders who will be making these decisions to think in a way ahead of time. And it is an adjustment, a significant change, that General McChrystal made shortly after he arrived in June. I think he actually changed the directive in early July, as I recall. So it’s been in effect for a considerable period of time. And since he put it in effect, there have been a – there’s been a dramatic decrease in the number of civilian casualties. That is also for these new forces who I was talking to yesterday to think about, train to, and execute when they get there.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ADM MULLEN: Yes, it does. Yeah, it’s a NATO directive. It’s not just a U.S. directive.

MODERATOR: Okay, in the red tie right there.

QUESTION: General, my name is Ansgar Graw from the German newspaper Die Welt. You mentioned the Afghan security forces and the need to develop and to train them. But what is the benchmark to make it possible to hand over the responsibility? General McChrystal spoke of 400,000 just soldiers, Afghan soldiers, some months ago. What would you say is the benchmark in the question of the number?

ADM MULLEN: The 400,000 number was a combination of the army and police force. It was 240,000 army and 160,000 police. And I think – I hope that adds up to 400,000. What we are looking at right now, and we’ve got in the mid-90,000s if you will, of each, what we’re doing is we’re partnering with them much more broadly and much more deeply than we had in the past. This is part of General McChrystal’s strategy, and he’s again executed this already. So some 80 percent of the Afghan army units that are out there right now are partnered with ISAF and non-contributing nations’ forces.

What – we know what goals we need to move over the next – move to over the next year to two years. And right now, we’re very focused on achieving, on the part of the army, let’s say, 134,000 by the first of October of next year. So we’ve got our work cut out to do that. It involves incentivizing the – both the army and the police. That’s, in fact, raising their salaries in some cases. We have to improve retention. We have to improve attrition. We have to eliminate or take significant steps to eliminate corruption, particularly on the part of the police. And then where we are next year and where we see the security situation, we’ll look at what our challenge will be over the next year or so. We’ve got some targets, but they’re year-to-year targets, as opposed to a definite target that’s out there in four or five years.

There’s a long-term aspirational view of where we should get to, but it’s going to be a combination of what we’re able to achieve and the security situation that in the end actually determines what that final number will be. We just don’t know what that is yet.

MODERATOR: Okay. I’ll go to Poland. Standing in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. This is Zuzanna Falzmann, Polsat TV. I just wanted to ask about the Polish contribution. Have you got the confirmation from Polish Government that Poland is going to send 600 more troops?

ADM MULLEN: The way I’m handling that is I’m letting each government announce it. I’m not – I mean, we want each government to announce their own contributions. And in fact, I just don’t know whether Poland has done that or not. And so I’m not speaking to individual contributions. It’s really important that individual countries are able to do that at a time and a place of their own choosing.

That said, Poland’s contribution has been significant. It is a country that has made a huge difference. And we certainly look to that continuing partnership down the road, and we’re very appreciative of that.

MODERATOR: We’re going to break away again and go to New York. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Nick Krastev, Radio-Free Europe/Radio Liberty. It’s a follow-up to the question asked by the Russian journalist. In your response, you mentioned that General Makarov has been quite supportive about your strategy. But actually, some senior Russian military officials have been quoted – those include also veterans from Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in 1979-89, that, actually, they say that this is a war that cannot be won. So how would you comment on, you know, such a response? And besides the verbal assurances from General Makarov, do you have any indications that Russia is kind of willing more to cooperate on Afghanistan with the United States? Thank you.

ADM MULLEN: Well, again, and General Makarov and I have talked about the lessons that have been learned and that the Soviets learned in that very difficult time as well. And I have talked about the logistics support, if you will, which is so critical in the north, which the Russians are very, very supportive of, and that there would be critics or those that don’t agree in Russia as well as those that don’t agree in my own country. That doesn’t surprise me.

It is the considered view of those on the ground in particular, but all of us who have reviewed this, including leaders from – many leaders from Europe and NATO, that this is the right strategy, that this is the right time, that this is the right approach. Resourcing it properly, which is being answered now, both with this 30,000 as well as the additional troops from NATO, is required, that’s happening, and that we can succeed.

So I certainly understand that, that those – that there would be critics out there would never surprise me.

MODERATOR: We’ll go the gentleman with the white hair.

QUESTION: Admiral, it’s Jim Mannion from Agence France Presse. I was wondering if, as a practical matter, you can slow down or delay the withdrawal from Iraq without affecting the flow of forces into Afghanistan. And as part of that, the new law on elections, I believe, will push back those elections until March. Is that going to be a problem?

ADM MULLEN: Based on my understanding and engagement with General Odierno, obviously we’ve been watching this potential election date move to the right and – from what was originally, I think, the end of January. And we’ve done that and looked at our plans, and we think basically that in the execution of the election, about that timeframe, end of February, first part of March, that we will be able to stay on our plan overall and both start the withdrawal – the reduction of U.S. forces and get to the 50,000 in August.

I’d rather not speculate about what the possibilities might be. I mean, certainly we’re always looking at plans that take into consideration other outcomes, but right now we just don’t see anything at this particular point in time which would require us to execute those. Clearly, I’ve got my increase in Afghanistan on a balance with the decrease in Iraq, and I actually can execute that within some margin so that it isn’t – it is by no means one for one or even one brigade for one brigade kind of thing. In terms of the worst case kinds of options, obviously that would start to – it would start to impede, but right now we’re just – I just don’t see us being close to that.

MODERATOR: Go to Japan back there, I believe.

QUESTION: Thank you. Nike Ching with the Voice of America. My question is regarding the Chinese cooperation in Afghanistan, and particularly the Wakhan Corridor. Could you please give us an update on the discussions with the China, the difficulties and the progress for China to open this strategic border? And what would you say to those who are suspicious of insurgents might work with the Muslim Uighurs which may result in the instability in the western China? And what role do you want China to play? Thank you.

ADM MULLEN: Well, from an overall strategic perspective in the continued evolution and development of our own – of the United States relations with China, the shared concern about terrorist kinds of activities is a very real one, not just on that border but actually in other parts of the world. So we continue to work with each other to look for ways to address that.

As far as the specifics of that border area, I’m not intimately involved in any discussions or any debates or even in any negotiations with respect to that. I have shared the – and I’ve had discussions about the severity of that challenge. And I’ve listened to the senior military officers in the PLA describe their concerns about that, and there are obviously mutual areas from the standpoint of terrorists and what they do. And at the same time, there are things that China wants to do internal to its country, internal to its own boundaries, that it’s looking at, but really wouldn’t be something the United States would be heavily involved in.

MODERATOR: Okay, I’m going to go that gentleman right there.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hawon Lee working for South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. Can you tell us from where 30,000 additional troops collected and stationed in Afghanistan? Especially I am wondering whether or not there is any possibility U.S. forces in Korea can be deployed in Afghanistan by the concept of strategic flexibility which was agreed in 2006.

ADM MULLEN: We’re very committed to the 28,500 troops presence in South Korea. And that’s been very strongly reaffirmed by President Obama in – both publicly as well as in his meetings with the South Korean – with President Lee.

The idea of strategic flexibility is one we’re addressing with the South Korean leadership. We think it is a very important part of the strategic concept for security in both the region and globally. As far as specifics of these 30,000, where they will come from, we’re working our way through that right now in terms of where the forces will be assigned to go on this mission. You saw – probably saw yesterday that we’ve announced where the first 16,000 would come from and that the decision with where the rest of them will come from just hasn’t been made.

MODERATOR: Time for one last question. Down here in the second row.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yasmeen Alamiri from Saudi Press Agency. I actually just wanted to ask about the – you said that this is more of a regional approach, we want to include all the countries in the region. So for Saudi Arabia, what do you hope the role is in the country? What do you envision? And more – I mean, do you want them to kind of engage with the Taliban mediation approaches and local leaders? I don’t really know if you’re utilizing Saudi or any other countries to kind of have more of a one-on-one approach in the country.

ADM MULLEN: Well, I know that Saudi Arabia has a keen interest in the outcome here in terms of its stability, very strong relationship with the – with Pakistan in particular. And as a key leader, there are both hopes and expectations on the part of us that the Saudi leadership can have a big impact in a positive outcome here. They’re not just – I know that they are not just sitting back, that they’ve been engaged with the leadership, they’ve expressed the concerns.

And while I focus on the region and talk, let’s say, about Central Asia or India and Pakistan and Afghanistan, per se, there’s an international aspect of this. This is a global – the terrorism problem is a global problem. This is the center of the – what I call the epicenter. And so I think leadership from many countries, including Saudi Arabia, to help solve these problems is absolutely vital in terms of how we move ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ADM MULLEN: There has been – I can’t go into details right now, but as I said earlier, I think the whole issue of reconciliation and reintegration is a critical part of our overall strategy, and those that can facilitate that would certainly be more than welcome.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming. This event is now concluded.

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